“Simply biblical”: The sacred us vs. them narrative in Cru’s anti-CRT publication

This is my second post on the recent Campus Crusade aka Cru anti-CRT publication, written by around 65 Cru staff members and leaders, representing the views of at least 350 Cru staff. I first came across this Cru document after some light digging revealed that Cru leaders were requiring staff to sign NDAs, sometimes in connection with top leaders’ spiritual, psychological and physical abuse. I’ve since learned that Cru’s ethnic minority staff members in particular have left Cru because of racism, among other issues.

In my first post, I considered some of the ways the authors reverse victim and offender, positioning themselves as those who are “hurt” by other Cru staff’s efforts to challenge systemic racism. In this post, I will explore further the ways a few key words in the 174-page document construct an ‘us vs. them’ narrative, good vs. evil, biblical vs. unbiblical, God vs. Satan.

“Biblical”

Let’s start with the word “biblical.” This word appears 171 times in the anti-CRT report. We need a “truly biblical perspective”, the authors write. What we present is a “Biblical perspective on relevant critical issues,” they say. The authors position themselves as being on the side of “biblical truth,” “biblical theology,” “biblical teaching,” “biblical morality,” “biblical concepts”. What we need and provide, they say, are “biblical ethics”, gospel, scholarship, discernment, accountability, pathway, implications, responsibility, authority, approach and leadership. Whereas “Cru is teaching an ideology that is questionably biblical,” the authors write (p. 9), what Cru needs is a “Biblical corrective.

The following quote from a former staff member is a typical example of the ways the Cru authors present, on the one hand, their own position as biblical and, on the other hand, anti-racism and social justice as “something different,” aka unbiblical.

Cru ’15 began a shift in what we were hearing was Cru’s mission. It seemed to us that the Movement was pivoting from a simple, Biblical foundation (emphasis on obedience to God’s Word and call to help fulfill the GC) to … something different that involved an emphasis on race/social injustice/etc.

p. 34 [emphasis mine]

This is powerful strategic, sacred positioning. When Christians with recognised authority call something “biblical”, and if this is repeated often enough, the sacred meaning attached to that concept or argument becomes much more difficult to question or detach. If you challenge an argument or concept that has been branded as biblical, as sacred, you aren’t just questioning the argument itself. You aren’t just questioning the authority figures who designed that brand. You are now questioning the Bible. You are questioning God.

In one “Personal Impact Story,” a Cru member goes so far as to position those who talk about racism as allies of “the enemy.”

I wonder how long it will be before major division in the movement completely neutralizes and destroys us. The enemy wants to bring in separation so he can steal, kill, and destroy.

p. 40

“Simple”

There are other, subtler ways the text’s authors create this powerful us vs. them narrative. Part of this involves creating a sense for the reader of how straightfoward the “biblical” way to think on this issue is, how obvious, how plain – and on the flip side, how simply wrong the so-called opposing side is.

In the first quote in this post, for instance, the word “simple” in “simple, Biblical foundation” gives the authors’ argument a sense of being uncomplicated, humble, modest. Anyone can easily see that CRT is wrong, their language suggests. You don’t need any special expertise or knowledge. No amount of cultural or intellectual sophistication is required to make such a judgement. As Affiliate Staff #11 writes, on p. 46, “My issue is simple: the last three Staff Conferences were unpleasant affairs.”

Other places in the document build on this idea that any sensible reader can easily see that the differences between the Gospel and CRT / social justice are clear-cut.

The Bible is clear that He set the parameters and initiated the only solution to the problem, namely, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Of course, there are numerous debates about what this simple statement actually means and entails, but it’s pretty clear that sin is the fundamental problem and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the sole solution (1 Timothy 2:5).

p. 64

“Merely”

Another word the authors use which adds to this sense of simplicity is “merely.” This word functions slightly differently, used to diffuse, over-simplify and dismiss the concept of racism they are critiquing. Racism is merely sin, they argue. “We all face many problems and struggles, but these are merely manifestations of this more basic and universal problem” (p. 64). Racism isn’t special. It isn’t worthy of our particular attention.

As Crawford Loritts notes, racism is merely bias of pigmentation.

p. 18

In other words, we all suffer from racism, so ethnic minorities have no special standing in this discussion. In fact, according to the authors, CRT and anti-racist work constitutes “nothing more than veiled racism.”

We know firsthand what racism is. Racism goes both directions. And there’s growing racism within Cru. The accusations that are made about white privilege are often nothing more than veiled racism. We are being judged because of the color of our skin.

p. 31, 40

And here we’ve come full circle. In this way, the Cru authors link their us vs. them narrative with a reversal of victim and offender. We are the real victims, they argue. And we are on the side of God. It’s all very obvious, to anyone with eyes to see.

Other uses of the word “merely” and similar language likewise attempt to over-simplify and dismiss CRT scholars’ concept of racism as the offense of:
1. just-belonging-to-a-certain-demographic,

While individuals can sin through active injustice or passive neglect of moral duty, they cannot be held guilty of sins they did not commit, nor are they morally tainted by merely belonging to a particular demographic group.

p. 100

2. being-privileged,

They are guilty of various forms of oppression merely by membership in oppressive groups.

p. 98

3. or seeing-things-a-different-way.

As we discussed who the next president would be, someone said, “Just as long as it isn’t a white man.” This was followed by the statement being applauded by nearly everyone in the group.
It revealed that most of the group felt this way, and that clearly if I did not see things this way, I was not only the minority but I was flat out a bigot.

p. 47

The authors of the anti-CRT doc are saying this:
The Bible’s message is simple and clear, understood easily by us, and we are simply right.
Those attempting anti-racist work within Cru are not only over-simplistic in their thinking but likewise simply wrong.

The following quote from the report’s early pages reveals this perspective, that in the mind of the authors, a certain contingent within Cru is over-simplifying the idea of the Christian life. Where the Bible teaches that Christians are “already” in the kingdom, but “not yet” seeing it in its glory, those who attend to social justice believe

the Christian life [is] lived merely on the earthly plane, focused on material struggle, material diversity, material hope, and material transformation of culture.

p. 18

More Biblicist than Biblical

I’ve explained some of the ways the Cru anti-CRT document relies on a sacred split between biblical and unbiblical, what the authors see as the simple gospel vs. simple anti-gospel. This form of argumentation is typical for those who lean conservative politically. Psychologists John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith and John R. Alford offer an overview of decades of research on the multitude of ways in which liberals and conservatives differ from each other. They note that even in their taste in art, conservatives tend to prefer simplificity and realism as opposed to complexity and abstraction. Hibbing and his co-authors consider the influence and significance of conventionalism, submission to authority and anti-intellectualism upon these and other preferences within conservative ideology. Their work helps us to situate Cru’s anti-CRT document within larger patterns of discourse among (particularly white) conservatives.

Still, some Christians reading this may yet be wondering whether there is any truth in what the Cru authors say. I encourage you to read the document in full, considering not only what I’ve said so far but many other questions around the sources the document authors relied on. Why, for example, does the document never make explicit the selection criteria for their “personal impact stories.” Who made the cut, who didn’t and why?

Unlike the Cru document authors’ view of the Bible, my view on the Cru document is far from simple, though here’s a summary: Their racist propaganda is more “Biblicist” than “Biblical,” intellectually dishonest, inflammatory and even slanderous. In this short video, Professor of Law Kimberlé Crenshaw and Professor of African American Studies Imani Perry confront some of the common misconceptions about critical race theory. I leave you with Crenshaw’s closing quote, which puts the Cru document in fuller perspective.

The censoring of all conversation about racism is called racism. That’s what this move is really about. It’s really not about a theory. It’s really not about what’s in people’s hearts. It’s about an effort to shut down all conversation about the sources and the reproduction of racial inequality.


One thought on ““Simply biblical”: The sacred us vs. them narrative in Cru’s anti-CRT publication

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s